Tuesday was the second and final day of the Fédération Equestre Internationale Sports Forum, held in Lausanne, Switzerland. Rule change proposals were discussed for eventing, dressage and para-dressage, as part of the quadrennial full rule revision cycle for those sports, as well as for veterinary regulations.
Discussion of the neurologic form of equine herpesvirus (EHV-1), equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHM), dominated the session on veterinary regulations, in the wake of an extremely disruptive outbreak that originated in Spain in 2021 and led to the cancellation of scores of European events, including the 2021 FEI World Cup Finals, as well as a significant outbreak in California this year.
Dr. Lutz Goehring, professor of equine infectious diseases at the University of Kentucky, gave a presentation explaining the EHV-1 disease process and how the virus is transmitted.
Goehring’s main points included:
• A vaccination rate greater than 85 percent is required to prevent EHV-1 outbreaks, but vaccination alone is not enough.
• Event organizers need advice and support to meet biosecurity requirements, with the goal of increasing distances between horses and reducing bottlenecks and barriers.
• Infectious horses who are shedding the virus need to be removed from barn areas quickly to decrease infection.
• Plans need to be put in place to establish group “bubbles” and to have rapid detection followed by isolation of infected horses.
Following Goehring’s presentation, FEI Veterinary Director Dr. Göran Åkerström addressed the specific veterinary rule proposals under consideration.
Specifically related to EHV-1, Åkerström put forth two proposals. First, for the FEI to consider requiring vaccination, but to seek further input and keep the situation under review, deferring a rule proposal on mandatory EHV-1 vaccination until the 2023 FEI General Assembly at the earliest. And second, to require mandatory vaccination against EHV-1 with implementation in 2025 in countries with available licensed vaccines.
Goehring was asked for his opinion on mandatory EHV-1 vaccination by a member of the French delegation.
“The message is clear: [Prevention of EHV-1] requires the whole village,” he said. “So you will have improvement, you will have benefits from vaccination, but the vaccine will not do it by itself. So you need to have these other restrictions in place, but you will still have an easier life to reduce the number of EHM cases when they are vaccinated. That’s my strong feeling for this.”
Other recommendations for changes to the veterinary rules include:
• For national federations to implement their own biosecurity rules and regulations so they can manage outbreaks, shut down national events and prevent transport of exposed horses.
• To introduce biosecurity campaigns and promote biosecurity education for national federations and event organizers.
• To review sanctions imposed upon those who violate biosecurity protocols to better reflect the ensuing biosecurity risks at events.
• To increase inspection before and during an event to help increase compliance with biosecurity protocols.
• To establish an emergency response unit, funded by the FEI, which will include veterinary experts and experts dedicated to collecting data.
Eventing Rule Changes
The panel dedicated to revision of the eventing rules was led by David O’Connor, chair of the FEI Eventing Committee, and Catrin Norinder, FEI director of eventing. The proposed changes seemed to be widely accepted and didn’t generate much discussion.
Among the most notable proposed changes:
• In a CCI-S, where show jumping is held before cross-country, 20 or more jumping penalties in show jumping would lead to elimination, and the combination would not be allowed to ride cross-country. Several national federations already have this rule.
• At the four- and five-star levels, requiring that a horse has completed a three- or four-star (respectively), long or short, within the previous 13 months.
• To empower the cross-country course designer, in addition to the ground jury and technical delegate, to monitor possible cases of dangerous riding on cross-country and have the ability to assess a penalty.
• To reduce the timeframe for athlete categories from eight years to four, and adapt the number of MERs required. There is also a proposal to update categories on a monthly basis, rather than every six months.
• To limit the involvement of course designers to a maximum of six consecutive years at one venue, to provide more opportunities for up-and-coming course designers.
• To modernize the dress code for dressage and show jumping.
Dressage And Para-Dressage Rule Change Proposals
Bettina de Rham, the FEI director of dressage, para-dressage and vaulting, outlined the proposed rule changes for dressage, including a reorganization of the rule book in a more logical fashion with new chapter headings.
Another proposed change is to adopt a more progressive structure of events, to encourage national federations to hold competitions at every level. Each level proposed would have different sets of tests with progressive technical difficulty.
Kicking off the para-dressage rule change proposal discussions, Amanda Bond, chair of the FEI Para-Equestrian Committee, highlighted progress the sport has made since coming under the FEI umbrella in 2006.
As with dressage, a similar new progressive structure of events is proposed for para-dressage. Bond noted that the current structure has very little progression between the levels. Very few CPEDI1* and CPEDI2* events are held each year, which means many athletes jump in at the deep end at the CPEDI3* level, where they’re competing against much more seasoned international athletes.
The new proposed structure is intended to be more welcoming for new athletes and allow more developing countries to participate, and to encourage event organizers to hold the lower levels and help grow the sport.
Each level proposed would have different sets of tests with progressive technical difficulty. The idea of a qualification system, with the aim of creating a progression from 1* to 3* events, or only for 3* events, was also put forward for discussion.
The other major change proposed for para-dressage was regarding the test names, which currently cause a lot of confusion. The new proposed tests would not be used until after the 2024 Paris Olympics but would more closely mirror the names of the dressage tests.
Today the FEI also announced official recognition of the International Grooms Association, an independent not-for-profit professional association established to achieve greater representation and career recognition for grooms, as well as to improve their working conditions, especially at equestrian events where long hours are the norm.
The support provided by the IGA will include guidance on employment rules, answers to commonly asked questions on recruitment, a toolkit for grooms working freelance, and a job board, to name a few. A section on well-being on the IGA website will ensure that grooms also have a strong emotional support system in place to assist them in their daily work.
“This is the moment in time that finally gives the international grooms a voice within the FEI and at competitions,” said Lucy Katan, founding director of the IGA and herself a former international groom.
“The goal is for the IGA to become the voice of international grooms, while recognizing all the work that goes into keeping the equine athletes of our sport happy, healthy and performing at their best,” she said. “While we want organizing committees to raise their commitment to improving working conditions, we hope that grooms will provide feedback on their work experiences through a ‘Grooms Report,’ so that improvements can be made to their working conditions at events. This is a real opportunity for grooms to constructively and collaboratively be heard and play a key role in their profession and this industry.”
Other notable proposals from the forum:
• At the 2024 Paris Olympics, to have the show jumping competition revert to the pre-Tokyo order with the team competition held first, followed by the individual competition.
• To amend the minimum eligibility requirements (MER) for eventing at Paris to include two CCI4*-S events (an increase from one CCI4*-S), in addition to a CCI4*-L. One of the CCI4*-S completions needs occur after Jan. 1, 2024.
• In dressage, to increase the MER from 66 percent to 67 percent for the Paris Olympics and to increase the number of teams in the Grand Prix Special from eight to 10.
Click here for coverage of Monday’s discussion. The entire forum can be watched online, and all the supporting documents and slide presentations can be found here.